Aiming to speed up and simplify printer setup, HP is now burning printer drivers into the printer’s own flash memory. Plus: new ‘Auto-On’ mode reduces standby power to 1 watt.
HP will bake the drivers for all its printers into the device’s own flash memory in an effort to reduce reliance on setup CDs and driver downloads when setting up a printer.
The Smart Install feature, introduced this week at a HP’s Value Equation media and analyst conference in Beijing, aims to transform “plug and play into plug and print” said LaserJet product manager Chow Wai Koon.
The driver software is installed the first time the printer is connected to a PC via a USB cable, making it especially useful for netbooks and other ‘thin and light’ laptops which lack an optical drive.
At this stage only the Windows drivers are preloaded into the printer’s firmware, although Koon said “we will work on the Mac for future versions”.
The baked-in drivers make their debut on HP’s just-released LaserJet Pro P1100 printer and the LaserJet Pro M1130 and M1210 multifunction printers. All printers will still ship with an installation CD containing both Windows and Mac drivers.
However, HP won’t be providing any simple software tool to allow customers to update the printer’s inbuilt drivers should updated driver software be released.
“We do not want our customers to update the firmware inside the printer” Koon told APC. “Most driver changes are a minor point-one or point-two update, so it’s not so vital that customers will need to update the Smart Install software.”
“Now if Microsoft released Windows 8 in 2012 and this needed new drivers, of course the driver software in a printer which you bought in 2010 will not support the new operating system” Koon said. “But if we are still shipping this printer in 2012 then the one coming out of the factory will support the new drivers of Windows 8”.
HP’s support site will provide instructions on how to reflash the printer with a later update of the drivers, but this will be in the realm of ‘advanced users’. Anyone else who needs to connect the printer to a new PC will need to install the first-gen drivers over the USB cable and then download and install updates from the Web.
HP is also introducing a new power-saving ‘deep sleep’ mode in its printers. Called Auto-On/Auto-Off, this reduces the power drain of an unused personal laser printer from the typical 3-5 watts to slightly less than one watt, or 1.5 watts for a multi-function printer with faxing and a LAN connection.
“95% of customers let the printer go into sleep mode when they walk away at night or weekends, but that’s when 80% of a printer’s energy is expended” explained Dave Lobato, HP LaserJet Environmental Manager.
In an Auto-On/Auto-Off printer “only the firmware remains active and listening for incoming print jobs” Lobato said. When a job arrives the printer wakes up as per usual, but during the lengthy standby mode in which printers spend most of their time it draws a third of the energy.
“The only way to draw less energy is to turn the printer off. In fact unless you turn it off at the wall it’s still drawing 0.3 watts, which is what the industry calls ‘phantom draw’
Lobato said.David Flynn is attending HP’s Value Equation Media & Analyst Briefing in Beijing as a guest of HP